Enjoying Disclosure's Freedom
March 6, 2012
I had always been a carefree, happy, spiritual and truthful person. But after I got HIV from my boyfriend 11 years ago, I stopped feeling like myself. I was doing well physically: My CD-4 count was above 1,100 (and rising), and my viral load was undetectable.
But my emotional load was at 0, and I felt spiritually sick. I had spent 10 years watching what I said and hiding my medications, doctor's appointments, HIV magazines and anything else that might raise suspicion from family and friends.
My life had come to a standstill; my secrecy was holding me back from being myself. I was a prisoner of my own fear and shame, and after 10 years I decided that enough was enough. I had done nothing to be ashamed of, and the contribution I could make to ending this epidemic was more important than the guilt I felt. I had to tell my story to my community.
On National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in 2011, I publicly disclosed my HIV status in the Philadelphia Daily News newspaper. Until then, only two close family members knew, but now my story and picture were in print for everyone to see. I received all kinds of responses: the good, the bad and the ugly. Some people were shocked because I was older, a teacher, mother, wife, upstanding member of my community -- and HIV positive.
"Oh no, not my sister," my own sister cried. I didn't fit the ill-perceived stereotype of someone who contracts HIV. But the shock factor worked, because many family members and friends asked me to go with them to get tested.
That day of my public disclosure was also the day I broke free. A heavy load lifted off my spirit, and 10 years of numbness, shame, guilt and fear seemed to just melt away. It doesn't matter anymore what people say or think about me. What matters most is that I feel good about myself and I'm standing in my personal truth.
I realize that disclosure may not be best for every HIV-positive person; it's a personal choice, but a necessary one for me. I feel free and light -- as if I can finally spread my wings and soar. Yes, I believe I can fly; I believe I can touch the sky.
Nancy Asha Molock, 61, is a retired schoolteacher and activist who is writing a memoir and planning an event in Philadelphia on March 10, 2012, for National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.
This article was provided by The Black AIDS Institute. Visit Black AIDS Institute's website to find out more about their activities and publications.
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